The Complete Stories.
Booklist Reviews 2015 August #1
Benjamin Moser set a spectacular revival of the work of Clarice Lispector (1920–77) in motion with Why This World (2009), his superb biography of the deftly imaginative, cosmopolitan, and sardonic Jewish Brazilian writer. Moser is also series editor for new translations of Lispector's novels, translating The Hour of the Star himself, and he has edited and introduced this landmark collection containing new translations of all 86 of Lispector's uncanny stories. Many are portraits spiked with unnerving details. Some are cosmic riddles ("The Egg and the Chicken"). Others are family farces ("The Birthday Party" concentrates generations of resentments into one family gathering for the silent "birthday girl," an 89-year-old matriarch.) There are strange fables (an encounter between an explorer and Africa's tiniest pygmy) and wildly unpredictable and barbed tales of lust and spirituality, crime and fate. Lispector's stories are surreal, modernist, and laced with magic realism, and she has been compared to Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf. But Lispector's tales are distinctly her own—sharp, swift, and dangerous in their stinging humor and burning illuminations of the paradoxical human condition. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2015 May #2
Because as a writer she was indifferent to plot and because she happened to be very beautiful, Lispector (1920–77) in her lifetime was more talked about than read. Since her death, however, she has been rediscovered and hailed as a female Franz Kafka. As a child, Lispector told stories to her dying mother in hopes of keeping her alive. She felt a kinship with the muteness of animals, but as she watches through the railings at the zoo in "The Buffalo," it is their being "trapped in this mutual murder" that is her epiphany. In another story a woman with a broken tooth opts for suicide over a visit to the dentist. "The Fifth Story" exists in five phases or versions, the first being the most literal (the task of killing a cockroach) and the final one, "Leibnitz and the Transcendence of Love in Polynesia," dissociating itself from the cockroach theme entirely. VERDICT Lispector has a mystic's regard for transcendent perception. Her fiction, while difficult, can illuminate on many levels, and certain intrepid readers will delight in the labyrinths she constructs for them.—Jack Shreve, Chicago[Page 79]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2015 June #4
Reviewed by Valeria Luiselli is the only footage that exists of Clarice, as fellow Brazilians affectionately refer to her, she looks at her interviewer with a bewildering combination of innocence, rage, and nonchalance and tells him: "I insist on not being a professional. To keep my freedom." Like so many of her thoughts and statements, this one overflows beyond its apparent simplicity. It is at once a deeply personal position taking in how Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) envisages her craft and an overt social critique directed at a world that had just discovered the market value of the author. It must be remembered that Lispector's publishing life ran parallel to but was always independent of the Latin American Boom, which was, in many ways, a literary brand, as well as the first internationally visible map of professional writers in Latin America. But Lispector cannot be circled into that, or any map. Her ravishing freedom will always just spill out from the restraints of any conceptual boundaries. Lispector's work never engaged explicitly with the political debates of her time. When asked in the same interview what the duty of Brazilian authors is, she replied: "To speak as little as possible." The answer is, of course, political, directed at the perceived duty of the writer to be an enlightened public intellectual, but in many ways it is also a declaration of her ars poetica. Lispector--like Beckett, or, to a degree, Kafka's--strips language to the bone, in search of some kind of metaphysical core or nucleus. The way she composes a sentence has more to do with subtracting layers from the world she observes than with adding commentary to it. In the devastating story "Love," for example, the protagonist notices people in the street: "Next to her was a lady in blue, with a face." Lispector's laconic, almost aphoristic syntax is, at times, full of a brutal sense of humor and at times disquieting. In the classic "A Chicken," a family chases a hen that, standing on a roof far from their reach, looks like "an out-of-place ornament, hesitating on one foot, then the other." In "Report of a Thing," about an alarm clock, the narrator notices "its infernal tranquil soul." In "Love," dried pits scattered on the ground, with their "circumvolutions," look like "little rotting brains." Lispector is the master of magnifying small, everyday details into epiphanies.The Complete Stories — more than 80 short stories, covering her entire writing life chronologically — seems to both restitute the form's most essential characteristics and open it up to boundless possibilities. Lispector writes, in the most simple and straightforward sense of the term, stories to be told. They are not concepts disguised as narratives, as are those of J.L. Borges. They are not investigations into form and structure, as are Julio Cortazar's. They are not developments of situations, as are many of Raymond Carver's. Lispector is one of those rare writers who can simply tell a story. She observes the lives of passing strangers — a girl who boards a train, a woman who attends a lecture on a hot day, a man who drowns, an old lady who visits the gynecologist — and, in doing so, confronts us with our own loneliness, our fragility, our humanity. Published by New Directions and translated beautifully and with a vigorous pulse by Katrina Dodson, The Complete Stories is bound to become a kind of bedside Bible or I Ching for readers of Lispector, both old and new. Wherever one opens the book, there is a slice of life to confront. In one of her later stories Lispector recalls the writer Sergio Porto, her friend, who was once asked by a stewardess on a plane if he wanted coffee. To which he replied: "I'll take everything I have a right to." We can approach this volume in a similar spirit: take everything. (Aug.) Valeria Luiselli is the award-winning author of Faces in the CrowdandSidewalks.Her novel The Story of My Teeth is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in September 2015.[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC